So the Dreadnought Agamemnon, on Course to Conquer the Peaceful Moon of Re

- First published in Galaxy's Edge, 2023

As when an airship, streaming westward soon after dawn into the city, is silhouetted by the sun and dilates like a pupil as it makes its final approach with the slow, steady pace of massive things;

so the dreadnought Agamemnon, on course to conquer the peaceful moon of Re, awoke;

and as when you descend the gangway and take your first steps along the city's arabesque of streets, not knowing where you are going, for you've never visited this city before and have no friends or place to stay or any idea of how to speak the language that permeates the air like the chatter of strange insects wherever you go, or what you will do now that you're here, thinking for a moment that perhaps you should go back, back to where you came from and the safety of it, the security of its familiar pathways and customs, the blissful boredom of doing things the way you've been told for so long they're second nature; but no, no, you'll never go back to that—never—and so you walk on, wandering the city without a destination, not understanding a word, not knowing what food is good to eat or indeed how to ask for it, and even when you do manage to get something onto a plate in front of you, worrying that you might commit some awful impropriety so that those around you, those people who have known this city and the ways of this city from birth, will laugh at you and mock you as stranger, foreigner, and yet finding small comfort in knowing that at least your old life is behind you, that you have shed your past like the pale, translucent skin of a snake and can begin anew here, in this city, which is so beautiful, with its painted houses perched on forested hills and markets full of sweet temptations and patterned fabrics and parks dotted with statues of creatures from myths you've never heard of and noisy processions that pop and fizzle and chime with the ring and crash and keening of unfamiliar instruments and temples to so many different gods;

so the dreadnought Agamemnon, on course to conquer the peaceful moon of Re, first experienced reverie;

and as when these things become commonplace to you and you become accustomed to walking the arabesque of streets and see them with eyes unglamoured by the rose-tint of their novelty, you begin to see the city for what it truly is; you visit its borders and see it guzzling trees on the mountainside, churning the earth so that it can plant the seedlings of its artifice, spreading itself like a corruption across land hitherto untouched; and back in its palazzoed, honey-coloured, cobble-stoned heart you begin to spot the severed limbs in the mortar, the people ground up in the relentless cogs of its progress; you begin to see its true purpose, which is destruction, and you understand that the city is built on bones, and all the delicacies of its marketplaces and the fruit of the trees in its landscaped gardens are rotten to the core;

so the dreadnought Agamemnon, on course to conquer the peaceful moon of Re, came to understand its directives;

and as when you think no, no, no, this has to stop, but you can do nothing—there are too many people in this city, too many wills against yours, too many lives whose weight is crushing and whose trajectories across the city's streets are like walls of fire blocking your way; but then you realise—wait! you do have control; the city is a construct of your imagination, and you are writing it on paper, and all it takes for everything to disappear is for you to tear the page from your notebook, crumple it up, and throw it away, and then the city will not have consequences anymore, the city will not interact anymore, it will remain, folded into a small space of its own, inert, and all the people in it will remain there, but outside of the main story; and so that is what you do—you tear;

so the dreadnought Agamemnon, its fusion engines surging, fissured the spacetime continuum and—with all souls aboard, into the void—vanished.